• Djunga Djunga Yunupingu dedicated a moving opening ceremony to his nephew Dr. G Yunupingu. (NITV News/Nakari Thorpe)Source: NITV News/Nakari Thorpe
Traditional Owners shared an emotional ceremony in honour of Dr G Yunupingu with leaders of the country as the 19th Garma Festival officially opened.
4 Aug 2017 - 9:01 PM  UPDATED 4 Aug 2017 - 9:09 PM

Warwuyu ŋarranha mulkana
Ŋarraku bäpawu
Ŋuruŋuna guṉipunharayu
Yaa, bäpa marrkapmirri

These are the lyrics from D G Yunupingu’s most acclaimed and powerful release, Bapa.

Now, almost ten years after Dr G first sang those words and not long after he sang his last song, the Traditional Owners of Gumatj country, his family, are ensuring his legacy will never be forgotten.

The weight of that legacy was felt deeply amongst those who witnessed a moving opening ceremony for the 2017 Garma Festival.

Gumatj clan leader, Djunga Djunga Yunupingu, remembered his nephew.

“He was an Australian man and a Maralitja man who sung in our language for your ears,” he said.

“He left us without truly knowing his place in this nation.”

In the yellow colours of their clan group, young and old Gumatj danced and sang in honour of their brother, son and nephew Dr G, in front of Australia’s leaders, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.

"He brought the Yolngu language to all Australians, his music will be forever cherished," Mr Turnbull told the gathering.

Tears flowed for the late musician as a minute silence was held. Lucy Turnbull wept along with emotional Gumatj clan elders, as Traditional Owners sang one of his songs about their gurtha, or sacred fire.

Men, women and children sung and danced before the guests. Djunga Djunga Yunupingu asked the political leaders to help them reach, ‘Two Laws. Two People. One Country.’

“We need you Mr Turnbull and Mr Shorten to help us find this wayawu, this place where we find unity,” Mr Yunupingu said.

Gumatj clan leader Galarrwuy Yunupingu spoke about the Referendum Council’s report on constitutional recognition, which calls for a constitutionally enshrined voice to Parliament, a Makarrata commission and a truth-telling of the nation’s history. 

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"At Uluru we started a fire. A fire that we hope burns bright for Australia," he said.

"We live side by side but we're not yet united... this is the perfect place for us to find our path to a settlement."

Mr Shorten is calling for a joint parliamentary select committee for next steps in constitutional change.

Watch Opposition Leader Bill Shorten speaking at Garma

“I regard Garma as an opportunity to provide us in Canberra with inspiration. To actually argue for a Makarrata Commission, for truth telling and for treaties,” he said.

“In amongst everything else here at Garma, perhaps all of us: Aboriginal leaders, the Government, the Opposition, can sit down and work out the next steps towards achieving it.”

Mr Turnbull said the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australia is based on mutual respect. 

“Our relationship is based on mutual respect and we build that and care for that as we learn from each other and as we learn from you. We learn language, we learn culture, and based on that is respect,” he said.

“As the Prime Minister, one of my most important roles as a leader is to listen. So, we've come to learn, and participate in this festival, respectfully.”

Watch Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull speaking at Garma

Presented by the Yothu Yindi Foundation, the Garma Festival brings together political and corporate leaders, schools, academics and philanthropists with high profile Indigenous leaders Jackie Huggins, Dr Galarrwuy Yunupingu, Megan Davis and Stan Grant. 

Watch the Garma 2017 Opening Ceremony

2017 is a special year for Garma as it is the next major meeting of the nation’s Indigenous leaders in the wake of the historic Uluru summit. Momentum is building for a nationwide Makarrata - a Yolngu word for bringing peace after conflict. A Makarrata would lead to an agreement or treaty, which is the this year’s Garma Festival central theme.

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